Giant moths creating a stir across Malaysia

A worker clears the bodies of moths found at the Sultan Ahmad Shah 1 mosque in Kuantan. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
A worker clears the bodies of moths found at the Sultan Ahmad Shah 1 mosque in Kuantan. -- PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

PETALING JAYA - Giant moths are causing a buzz in many areas across Malaysia, especially in the city of Kuantan in Pahang, after a flurry of sightings were similarly reported in Singapore last month.

Malaysians living in various states including Penang, Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembila, Malacca and Johor have reported frequent sightings of Lyssa zampa, or the tropical swallowtail moth, whose sculpted wings can reach 16cm.

"They are kind of pretty but it is scary that they are so big," Kuantan resident Ketiswary Nachiar was as saying by The Star newspaper. "(I) always find them dead on the side of the buildings in the mornings."

Klang Valley resident Napsiah Wan Salleh said: "I saw four light brown moths with white straight line on the wings in my area the last few days ... saw one again this morning."

National University of Malaysia entomologist Norela Sulaiman said such high frequency of sightings was "unprecedented" and "abnormal".

"I believe there is a lack of predators such as birds which usually eat the caterpillars," Dr Norela told the Malaysian daily.

President of the Entomological Society of Malaysia Idris Abdul Ghani suggested that the "invasion" could be due to the easy availability of food plants.

In Singapore, some 800 sightings of the moths were reported between mid-April to mid-May, according to the National University of Singapore (NUS) Habitat News website.

NUS ecologist N. Sivasothi told The Straits Times in an earlier report that the moths are more commonly seen between May and August although they are present all year round. The last major flurry of sightings was in 2005, with minor spikes every year or so since, said ecologists.